Updated: Feb 28
This post was created in updating my online writing portfolio at www.joshoaktree.com/ portfolio
Maybe you're thinking about making a book or starting a comics project, but you've never done it before. Here are 5 reasons to embrace your quote-unquote unrealistic dreams and begin making them a reality today.
As a joint film and English major, per graduating requirements, I had to combine the two disciplines for my senior thesis. Sometimes, I get ideas (like starting a company to publish comics) that the more rational or hesitant side of my personality later reflects on and asks why. That part of my personality says, "Don't you realize how insane that was?! You'd never done that before!"
At the time of those ideas, my excitement clouds my vision. Or, rather, my vision is so clear and honed in that I allow the periphery to fall out of focus as to not distract me. I seem to choose not to see the future hard work, struggle, or frustration that will arise to make the dream come true.
To combine my two majors, I adapted D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse Winner," cinematically, as a comic. I had never drawn a graphic novel before. To say I have now is a little bit of an overstatement. At 83 pages, my thesis is more of a graphic novella.
Nonetheless, I can now say I've known the experience of drawing a long-form narrative for weeks at a drawing tablet while How I Met Your Mother played in the background. I believe that's how most, if not all, graphic novels are made, with Ted, Lily, Marshal, Robin, and Barney for company. It was... wait for it...
So, why should you take on projects that exist outside of your comfort zone?
1. Because there's a first for everything
Once upon a time, Disney had never made an animated movie. Shakespeare hadn't written a play. Lebron had never dribbled a basketball. You get the idea. Of course, you don't have to become an all-time great for it to be worth your while. For me, often it is a fear of not being great that might keep me from a new endeavor. If that's the case, remember you should do it...
2. Because you'll get to learn for learning's sake
"Torah L'Shma" is a philosophy my dad reminds me of often. My father came across it in his Jewish Studies. In Hebrew, Torah L'Shma means, "Learn for its own sake." From a Jewish standpoint, the idea is to study the Torah not to get brownie points with God but because there's inherit value in learning.
We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed. If you value the experience over the results, the hope or philosophy is that you will enjoy life more. Who knows, success may follow. But success should not be the end-all and be-all.
If you're anything like me, I can only remember to value the experience for so long before I want results, which is why you should also remember...
3. You haven't failed; you just haven't succeeded yet
For those of you that are result-oriented, it can be disheartening if a project doesn't get the response you anticipated. A fear of failure might keep you from expanding your comfort zone and taking on that new skillset or project.
If you're like me and find that difficult, picture a missed shot. A basketball rims out. It lands far away. You can still pick up the ball and shoot again. That's an oversimplification, of course. With creative endeavors, so much energy goes into taking that shot that you may feel emotionally drained. You might not have the energy, initially, to try again. It is when I miss, or seemingly fail, that I try to remember all my greatest moments of growth usually coincide with my greatest moments of adversity. Eventually, I rediscover the courage to pick up the ball again. I will be better for it...
4. Because skills build skills
Let's be clear. Drawing a graphic novel didn't turn me into a great artist or even close. There's a reason why I collaborate with artists instead of drawing my own stories. Creatively, I much prefer writing. I like the puzzle-making of structuring narrative, the creation of worlds, and the act of play that comes along with dramatizing scenes. I am much less adept at drawing. But spending countless hours illustrating a graphic novel taught me so many skills that I now apply to writing and as a publisher. It taught me about framing, perspective, perseverance. And more.
If you take on a new project outside of your comfort zone, you'll expand what you're comfortable with and what projects you'll feel ready to take on in the future.
Last but not least, you should take on projects that scare you...
5. Because you get to rediscover you
I find the greatest benefit to taking on firsts is that I rediscover who I am. I redefine what I can do. I learn my limits are perceived --- not reality --- and learn for learning's sake. I may succeed or quote-unquote fail, but I am a better person for it, no matter the end results.
I want to acknowledge that there may be factors outside your control, such as responsibilities or life events that act as barriers keeping you from embarking on that new endeavor. Maybe it's not feasible to devote your entire being or even a considerable amount of your energies to it. If that's the case, maybe you can make the newness of the project more manageable by dividing the learning into smaller tasks.
If you can, my experience is that you'll only benefit from expanding who you are and what you do.